Young Eels forward Tim Mannah does not need to look far to see the man who inspired his NRL career as he prepares for a crucial Telstra Premiership clash against the Cowboys at Parramatta Stadium on Friday night.
Mannah, a Guilford Owls junior, has idolised Eels captain Nathan Cayless as long as he can remember and is following in his footsteps by earning leadership honours of his own.
After winning two consecutive Harold Matthews titles with the Eels in 2003 and 2004, Mannah went on to become Parramatta’s inaugural Toyota Cup captain before graduating into the NRL ranks this season.
“I have spent the last 10 years looking up to Nathan Cayless,” Mannah said.
“To get the opportunity to play alongside him is still a buzz for me.
“My two favourite players growing up were Cayless and Steve Price, and I got to play against Price on my debut.
“I think Cayless sets the standard for how a professional player should be, the way he carries himself and conducts himself at training is a great example for anyone.
“So for a young player like myself coming through NRL, there is no better example to look up to than him.
“I’ve been lucky in that sense.”
The 20-year-old has not let the opportunity slip away.
Mannah has made the 4th most hit-ups at the club, despite coming off the bench, in a testament to his willingness to work and follow his mentor’s lead.
“He is always in my ear and helping me out,” Mannah said of Cayless.
“He has taken on a bit of a mentoring role with me and he always has great advice for me and helps me out not only on the football field, but also how to prepare mentally for a game.
“It is really special for me to have someone like him guiding me and moulding me as a player.
“I owe him a lot and I am very fortunate.”
Only seven games into his NRL career, Mannah admits that he is still adjusting to the pace of first grade.
“To be honest, I am only just starting to find my feet,” he said.
“I’m only just starting to get comfortable and some confidence now.
“It took me a couple of weeks, but I’m finally getting there.
“It is a lot faster, there is nothing like it.
“You think about playing in it since you were a kid, so to be involved in it is very exciting.”
Mannah is off contract at the end of the year but is keen to stay at the Eels and is confident a deal will be stuck soon.
“We have been in talks with them for a while now and we have almost sorted it out,” he said.
“I’m very passionate about the Eels, I have been involved with them since I was 14 years old and I really love the club.
“We won some Grand Finals in juniors with guys like Kris Keating and Taulima Tautai and it is just really exciting that we are all playing together in the NRL.”